How will this year be flu virus, that mutates every year? More aggressive or less? Even the experts don’t know how to answer that question. “We never know what will happen, but this year less. It depends on many factors, such as the weather or the behavior of the people,” the virologist replied. Ivan Sanz, scientific and virological surveillance manager National Flu Center of Valladolid.
Sanz looks towards the southern hemisphere, which has already passed the winter and which, therefore, is a good indicator of what “could happen here.” “We have seen that this year the influenza virus has been a little more benevolent, because people have been confined and because they have used mask, which limits the transmission of various respiratory groups “, he explains. According to him, in the south “a fairly large reduction has been seen” of the virus. “In South Africa, the transmission has been zero,” he says.
In the northern hemisphere, the flu vaccine begins to be manufactured in February; the World Health Organization (WHO) decides the strains of the virus that the vaccine will carry based on what is expected. They are all different from last year. Both trivalent vaccines from this year include, the first, an A strain from Guangdong-Maonan, another A from Hong Kong and a C from Washington. The second, a strain A from Hawaii, a strain A from Hong Kong and a strain B from Washington.
For its part the quadrivalent influenza vaccine It carries, in addition to the strains included in the trivalents, the B strain from Phuket. The difference between the two vaccines is the number of strains it carries. The tetravalent, by carrying more strains, gives “more security” because, according to Sanz, “circulate the flu virus that circulates, you are going to make sure that it is going to protect you against everyone.” That is why the quadrivalent is gaining more and more followers.
Mutates more than the coronavirus
The flu virus is similar to the coronavirus, but mutates “between five and 10 times” more than the coronavirus. “By its nature, it is very wrong when it comes to duplicating its genetic material and its enzymes do not know how to correct mistakes. This is bad for humanity, not for the virus,” says this virologist.
That is why it is often mistaken about which strains of the virus should carry the annual vaccines and, therefore, these are not always as effective. “It does not mean that the flu virus is more virulent, but that it is more difficult to find a vaccine and it must be adapted every year, “he adds. And he remembers that the fact that the coronavirus does not mutate so much is” very good news “in the fight against covid-19.” In addition, it is very likely that antibodies [del coronavirus] last much longer. “
Spain expects that many more people will be vaccinated against the flu this year. In Australia, according to the National Flu Center of Valladolid, the percentage increased by around 25%. In addition, there have been cases of people who have had, at the same time, covid-19 and flu. “Infection of both things at the same time is possible. There are already articles published, especially in people from the southern hemisphere. Is it more serious? In some cases, it is more serious. But not in others “, Sanz account.
Unlike in Spain (where vaccination is aimed at risk groups such as those over 65, people with a chronic disease or health), in countries such as United States and Canada influenza vaccination is universal since there it is considered that “everyone is at risk”. For Sanz it is the best option. “I support this idea. Because if you are in contact with older people you are also a person at risk,” he justifies.